Oral History: A look back at the greatness of Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo I


Firmly cemented as boxing’s best fight of the current century, the only debate surrounding the first Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo fight is whether or not it’s the greatest of all-time. 

Emanating in front of just 5,168 fans at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, this lightweight unification bout aired May 7, 2005, live on Showtime, and produced more drama and fireworks than fans of any kind could’ve imagined. 

After nine brutal rounds of two-way action, Corrales (39-2, 32 KOs) rallied from a pair of knockdowns in Round 10 to miraculously stop Castillo (52-6-1, 46 KOs) on his feet seconds later. 

Nearly 15 years to the week of this epic fight, Showtime will re-air the two-fight series (Castillo won the rematch by TKO five months later) on Friday at 10 p.m. ET. In addition, the Showtime digital series “Morning Kombat” will produce a live companion show on YouTube called “Classic Kombat.”

CBS Sports, with the help of Showtime, caught up this week with a handful of those who were in the arena that night for an oral history of the spectacular Round 10, including what led up to the legendary round and what happened next. 

I: The calm before the storm

JOE GOOSSEN (trainer of Corrales): When Diego first came to me, we had just beaten him with [Joel] Casamayor in October 2003. It was a big victory for us. So when the whole thing came about that Diego and Casamayor were going to have the [March 2004] rematch, Casamayor was out of my gym and we parted ways. Diego had gotten rid of his trainer. One of my assistants called him and Diego said, ‘Screw you’ and hung up on him. He thought it was a psychological game we were playing.

ARTIE PELULLO (Banner Promotions president, held option on Corrales): I made a deal with Gary Shaw to co-promote Corrales should he beat [Acelino] ‘Popo’ Freitas [in August 2004]. But he needed the Freitas fight to get to Castillo because Freitas had [the WBO] title. Acelino won the first seven rounds before Corrales dropped him three times and in the 10th round, Freitas quit and had enough.  

GOOSSEN: Once you got to know [Corrales], he was a great guy, but he was a very intimidating dude. When he walked into my gym the first time, he looked at me like, ‘I got something to say to you.’ I kind of smoothed out the situation real quick and we had a great run. We beat Casamayor to take the 130-pound title back, then we moved up to 135 and we stopped Freitas in 10. He really trusted me at that point and when we developed that game plan, he stuck with it. We implemented it, he executed it and the rest is history.

PELULLO: Gary and I were friends and we made a deal for the fight [with Jose Luis Castillo]. We thought it was going to be a good fight but listen, nobody thought it was going to be what it turned out to be. Nobody.

KIERAN MULVANEY (writer, Showtime boxing podcast co-host): I thought that, probably, the better the fight was, the worse it was going to be for Diego. I had no concept that this would be an all-time great fight, but I knew it was going to be a great scrap.

TONY WEEKS (referee): I have had the honor of refereeing both of those guys prior to their fight and I knew what type of fighters they were — all action, all hearts, all gut, all grit. I knew this fight would be a real tough fight but never did I dream it would elevate to the level that it did.

TODD DUBOEF (Top Rank Boxing president, co-promoter of Castillo): Did I think [it would be the fight of the year or fight of the century]? None of the above. Both guys had the lightweight title and it was a unification. It was in a half a room at the Mandalay Bay. We set it up for 6,000 seats, I believe. It was modestly attended. It wasn’t like completely sold out.

MULVANEY: We had the big boxing writers dinner the night before and basically all the writers were in town. I believe I was writing a piece for the long-lost boxing site, Tiger Boxing, at the time.

GOOSSEN: I knew that this was going to be a knock down, drag out [fight]. Period. I even said it at the press conference. I said, ‘You people sitting in this presser really don’t get what’s coming. You are going to get a free fight on Showtime that is a pay-per-view fight. You are going to get a PPV fight for free, I wouldn’t miss it.’ I did say that, I knew what was coming. 

PELULLO: [Top Rank CEO Bob] Arum, Gary and I went out to dinner the night before and we were having a good time. Arum thought Castillo was going to win and we thought Corrales was going to win. But nobody in that arena realized at the time that when the [two fighters] got into the ring, they would be the very best at what they were able to do.

MULVANEY: I was on the floor in the media section about a few rows back and they sat me next to the one and only [screenwriter, television producer, novelist] Budd Schulberg, who had written “On the Waterfront” and “What Makes Sammy Run,” amongst other things. At that time, he was in his late 80s and doing a documentary on Diego. So my evening was already awesome because I was sitting next to Budd f—ing Schulberg. Everybody thought it was going to be a pretty good fight too so before it even started, it was off to a pretty good start to the evening.

PELULLO: We were in the first row behind the commission. One side of me was Josh [Roy], who worked for me. On the other side was Todd and [Arum].

II: The Fight — “Within seconds, it became obvious”

GOOSSEN: That fight was so perfect in terms of the technique both guys brought to the table — the willingness, the heart, the smarts, the brains. Everything that could go into that fight was in that fight.

WEEKS: [The brutality] was unreal. They were taking blows, going back and forth with tremendous power, tremendous accuracy. In my mind, I was saying that somebody has to give. The action was non-stop in every round. Both of these guys were willing to lay everything on the line for this fight and they did. It was just tremendous.

MULVANEY: Within seconds of the first round, it became obvious what kind of fight it was because both guys immediately were working on the inside at the start.

ROUND 1: “This is going to be a great fight, I can tell you right now. Corrales is making it have to be one.” — Al Bernstein

MULVANEY: Castillo was just rock hard and Diego wasn’t but could hit like a mule and box pretty well. I assumed Diego was going to try and box and move and turn him, and Castillo was going to try to go to work inside.

GOOSSEN: People were thinking we were going to box Castillo, but I said ‘how can I make a guy who never boxed in his life beat a guy who comes forward like he does?’ [Floyd] Mayweather couldn’t get away from [Castillo] in their first fight. He applies so much pressure. We figured out a game plan and let everyone think we were going to box, but I told Diego that what we had to do was submarine this guy and beat him up early. If we don’t bang him up early, he is going to have a huge head of steam and run away with this fight. We needed the element of surprise.

ROUND 1: “On the surface of it, you would think this was a very risky move for Corrales early but so far he is kind of making it work.” — Al Bernstein

GOOSSEN: Nobody thought we would beat [Castillo] at his own game. The corner was caught off guard and I guarantee they didn’t have the sparring to prepare him for this kind of fight.

MULVANEY: It’s one of those fights where I thought it was going to be good and then a slow tidal wave sort of started to wash over us as the fight went on and on.

AL BERNSTEIN (Showtime color commentator*): One of the things that makes that fight special for me is that as I was sitting at ringside, it’s impossible not to appreciate Jose Luis Castillo or Diego Corrales as fighters. They were warriors, they were skilled and they put everything on the line that night.

ROUND 2: “And Corrales continues to score! The second round, even better than the first!” — Steve Albert

MULVANEY: It was building up and building up and there was ebbs and flows. I think what was incredible was that it wasn’t just violent, there was skillful violence. Both guys, even as they were fighting on the inside, were trying to pivot and find the right punches to land.

GOOSSEN: They were both supremely talented. They both had five-star quality technique. There wasn’t anything more that you could have thrown on the table for them to do technique wise. They used every trick in the book. When you look at some of the punches that both of them got hit with during the fight and leading up to the knockdown, it’s hard to imagine how some of those earlier punches didn’t knock one down or out.

MULVANEY: Castillo started landing the uppercut really good in rounds three and four. Diego was starting to work at the left hook and they were pivoting ever so slightly to get the right angle. At the same time, I can barely remember a jab. It was as if they decided that was the fight they were going to have and they just went out there and had that fight.

ROUND 6: “Wouldn’t call it panic, but somewhat of a sense of urgency developing in that Castillo corner.” — Steve Albert

GOOSSEN: I thought the majority of that fight went our way after five rounds. We had hurt Castillo a few times where we wobbled him. When they finally figured out they were in a different fight than they thought would transpire, they started making adjustments. It wasn’t probably so much as instructions [as] Castillo getting in the flow of the fight and he had good middle rounds. He started going to the body better and was catching Diego with the right uppercut in the pocket.

MULVANEY: If I felt anything, it was that Castillo had [built] a little bit of momentum. Around Round 6, it felt that Diego was starting to get a little bit more reactive and that his face was starting to swell badly.

PELULLO: After six rounds, we couldn’t believe what kind of fight it was.

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Corrales started swelling under both eyes in the middle of the fight.
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ROUND 7: “This is truly an extraordinary fight.” — Al Bernstein

BERNSTEIN: By the middle of the fight, we knew that we were seeing the fight of the year. What we didn’t know was we might be seeing the fight of the century.

MULVANEY: You started to think that at some point there has to be a quiet round.

PELULLO: We were all going crazy. In between the rounds, we are all talking to each other [at ringside] and saying, ‘Do you believe this?!’ Nobody saw that before, nobody saw that!

MULVANEY: This was one of those where you started looking around and suddenly you would look at the guy next to you and go, ‘Holy f—.’

ROUND 7: “Oh! A left hand by Corrales rocked Castillo! He almost went down for the first time! His knees buckled and he held on.” — Steve Albert

GOOSSEN: He did the old funky chicken at the end of the round and the bell saved him. There was a lot of stuff that happened early that went on to play a big part in the fight.

MULVANEY: What was amazing to me was that it never lulled. I don’t think there was a quiet round until Round 9 because Round 8 was an unbelievable round. Everybody has forgotten that Round 8 is an amazing freaking round.

PELULLO: We got into [round] eight. I turned to Todd and said, ‘This is something that is going to go down in history. This is unbelievable. I can’t believe this!’

ROUND 8: “No signs of fatigue! It’s unbelievable at this frantic pace. It has been manic.” — Steve Albert

GOOSSEN: Every time Castillo would do something worthy, Diego would answer back and vice versa. That was the beauty of it. It was just a ping-pong game for so long. It was like a never-ending tug of war, basically.

MULVANEY: I actually remember distinctly in my notes that I wrote “round of the year?” And for three minutes it was.

GOOSSEN: By the ninth and 10th round, I was feeling good although I knew Castillo was a danger in every round. He took such a great punch and was so heavy handed.

MULVANEY: Round 9 was relatively quiet and then Round 10 happened and it just went up a notch so unexpectedly.

PELULLO: Everything was great leading up to it, but it’s the 10th round that makes the fight what it is. What they did in those last three rounds was just phenomenal.

DUBOEF: People talk about how brilliant of a fight it was and these guys were just going at it. I don’t remember anything about the fight or any specific rounds. All I remember was that last round when I went on this emotional rollercoaster. It was almost surreal. That emotion is the only thing that sticks to me.

III: Round 10 — The Round of the Century

MULVANEY: I’m not sure that I was even still scoring it at that point.

GOOSSEN: Diego had a really good ninth round and I think he came out a little lackadaisical in the 10th round. He kind of sauntered out to Castillo.

MULVANEY: It felt a little bit to me as if Diego was starting to look a little bit more vulnerable. Castillo was still looking like a tank and landing his punches.

GOOSSEN: I told Diego in training that [Castillo] has two great tricks. One of them, he would slip your jab and come back with a right hand. The other one is he will set you up for a left hook by jabbing you to the body and then feinting that last jab and coming over with the hook hoping you would bite on it and parry. Diego never bit on that throughout the whole fight and he would block it with his elbow. Basically, in that 10th round, that’s what happened and how he caught us.

“What a left hook by Castillo and Corrales is down!” — Steve Albert

WEEKS: When the first knockdown happened, in my mind I said this might be it.

GOOSSEN: Diego sauntered out there very confident and Castillo put that feint jab on him and, boom, he hit that quick, short hook. It wasn’t a big one but that started that whole 10th-round affair.

MULVANEY: Just the way Diego went down, I mean he crumbled. There was a quarter-second delay after the hook landed and he just crumbled and sort of rolled over. My first thought was that this is probably it.

WEEKS: Of course, the mouthpiece comes out. 

PELULLO: Corrales gets off the canvas and spits out his mouthpiece. He learned that from Freitas the fight before! Freitas did it twice on him and [Corrales] learned how to buy more time.

WEEKS: I didn’t see that he spit it out. I saw the mouthpiece on the canvas and I took it and threw it to the corner to have it ready by the time I finished my count.

“They get the mouthpiece as [Corrales] is up at eight.” — Steve Albert

PELULLO: Joe is in the corner yelling, ‘What do you want to do?’ It’s like a movie!

MULVANEY: Normally, no matter how good the fight is, everybody is just trying to stay calm and do their thing. This was still a time where [media members] weren’t doing live blogs or tweeting. There were deadline writers and people making notes but you could focus more on what was actually happening. It felt to me at the time as if this was one of those fights that had gotten ahold of the press section. There was that sense that this was a fight that had caught up everybody and that we were all there and, in a strange way, were a part of it.

WEEKS: I took the appropriate action and went over to the corner and had him rinse it off.

“Get inside on him! Come on!” — Joe Goossen

GOOSSEN: I watched him go down and he went down ugly, but he got up strong. Right there I’m computing that and not listening to the crowds. I’m computing how he looks and that’s going to determine what I come back with.

WEEKS: Joe Goossen tried to stall a little bit but it’s OK.

GOOSSEN: Diego trusted me, that’s the big key. Your fighters have to trust you.

WEEKS: I’m looking at Corrales and he’s focused, he’s not showing any signs of really being hurt. I was surprised. He gets up, beats the count and rinsed the mouthpiece out. I warned him that I would take a point away and then the fight continues.

“Castillo looking to finish him here and [Corrales] goes down again!” — Steve Albert

BERNSTEIN: When Corrales went down for the second time, the fight appeared to be over.

PELULLO: I said, ‘This is over. He’s not going to survive this.’ I’m talking to myself and I’m going crazy.

WEEKS: Same deal and he’s down again. I figured it might be over with but obviously it wasn’t. The mouthpiece comes out again and now I’m going to have to take some action on it.

PELULLO: Tony Weeks had the guts to let it go. Whatever he was watching in Corrales’ eyes, after the second knockdown he could have stopped the fight and he didn’t do it.

GOOSSEN: I don’t think you needed a referee in that fight but when you needed a referee, this fight had the right one.

WEEKS: I’ve always stated that people don’t look at referees as being human. We have to get it right every single time out and there is no excuse.

MULVANEY: [If Weeks stopped the fight,] I wonder if we talk about it at all. I hadn’t ever really thought about that. I think we would think it’s a very good fight. It’s a fight that people who watched it at the time thought it was great and maybe the fight of the year. But are we still talking about it two, three, five and even 15 years later? I don’t know that they are.

PELULLO: Today that fight would have been stopped. Tony Weeks lets that fight go and it becomes what it is today and the reason why Showtime believes it’s one of the best fights they ever did. But today, they stop that fight.

“Excessive spitting out of the mouthpiece and a point deducted to make matters even worse now for Corrales, in a dreadful round down two times here in the 10th.” — Steve Albert

MULVANEY: When Diego came out of that corner the second time, when he had the point deducted, it felt inevitable. The only question at that point was whether he was going to survive the round.

WEEKS: I’m looking at him and he’s focused, his eyes were clear and he’s looking at me. I was surprised that he was OK. I had to make a crucial decision right there. If Corrales was seriously hurt, he could have been seriously injured in that fight.

GOOSSEN: When he got the point taken away from him, he was arguing with Tony Weeks and in my mind, that was a good thing. That showed presence of mind that he didn’t like that he got a point taken away from him. All of those things are giving me my direction on what I’m going to say to him.

PELULLO: Tony Weeks is taking points away. Corrales needs some time and I’m sitting over there in the corner saying, ‘I can’t believe what I’m watching here!’ And Joe Goossen is in the corner and he’s f—ing screaming at him! The f—ing guy’s eye is closed! The balls on Corrales are the size of watermelons.

“You got to f—ing get inside on him now.” — Joe Goossen

GOOSSEN: Diego is a better fighter than anyone thought on the inside and Castillo had more of the tricks [from the outside] even though Diego was the longer guy. [Castillo] was a little bit cuter, as they say, and was really good if you gave him room. I thought we would be better off on the inside because no one really knew the skill of Diego. He threw five- and-six punch combinations, which is really unheard of. I just figured that our safest place was keeping our hands up real good. It took Castillo really going up the middle to finally get to Diego.

MULVANEY: The first knockdown was on a fantastic hook, but the second knockdown — and I’m not the one taking the punches — looked a lot less powerful than the first one. It looked as if he was just going to go over on any clean hit. I wouldn’t be surprised had Castillo cracked him again that Tony wouldn’t have stopped it.

DUBOEF: You thought this was conclusive and you went through a period of time where Castillo just dominated that part of the round and it was just a matter of time before that referee stopped the fight and called it a day.

GOOSSEN: I will tell you there was some people very close to Diego that were sitting near me and yelling to stop the fight. That I heard. I responded with a quick, ‘no,’ because they deserved my response. I said no because I knew what I was looking at. They may have thought different from their viewpoint and it may have looked a lot worse than I thought it was from my viewpoint. But he got up strong two times. That was due to our training and his heart and will power. The running, the exercise, etc. It gave me incentive [to let him fight].

DUBOEF: I think Castillo kind of said it after the fight pretty well. He said it was this feeling as if you had just ran a marathon and you thought it was over. Only then, you find out there is two more miles. He thought it was over and we all thought it was over. He kind of took a relaxing position in that round, as well. It’s just that the marathon wasn’t over.

PELULLO: When Corrales gets up, there is a point after that where he hits [Castillo] with a shot and it stops him in his tracks a little bit. I said, ‘Oh my God, we are in this fight.’ 

MULVANEY: I felt [the momentum change] instantly. He caught him with a short right hand as Corrales went for the kill and Castillo took a short step back. Re-watching it, I realized that Al Bernstein called it perfectly that he had just hurt him.

“He just hurt Castillo with a right hand or at least pushed him back. That was astonishing! And he hurts him with a hook!” — Al Bernstein

MULVANEY: When you are watching a fight, you can usually tell by the body language that someone is hurt and instantly, it really looked like [Corrales] hurt him. I was thinking, ‘How is that even possible?’

PELULLO: You have highs and lows the whole time and the adrenaline started flowing. Then when Castillo got staggered a bit, I was like, ‘I can’t believe this. I can’t believe it changed so quickly.’

“Corrales comes back with a straight right and now Castillo is against the ropes! Unbelievable! Ebb and flow!” — Steve Albert

MULVANEY: Castillo backed up a bit and there was a left hook that backed him into the ropes. Suddenly, I could barely conceive it. At this point, I was entirely wrapped up in the experience. I could not believe that this could possibly be happening. It very rapidly went from him just keeping him off of him to he is actually turning this around.

DUBOEF: You were just flabbergasted, shocked. It was like, ‘What is going on here? This is not possible!’

MULVANEY: On the one hand, it happened very fast. But on the other hand, they are both so tired that the punches are almost in slow motion at this point. You are watching it thinking whether this is actually happening.

“They are all all standing here at Mandalay Bay. Corrales is coming back after being on the canvas twice here in the 10th.” — Steve Albert

WEEKS: After the second knockdown, Corrales miraculously comes back and the next thing you know, I’m stopping the fight. It was like unreal. It happened so quick. You don’t have time to really grasp what is going on.

MULVANEY: Castillo is staggering around and Diego is on him. Castillo’s gloves drop and there is this sudden realization that, ‘Oh god, he has got him! Castillo is done!’ It’s all in the space of seconds.

PELULLO: When he stops Castillo in the ropes, it was like … unbelievable.

“Corrales winging. Castillo is in trouble! Weeks steps in and the fight is over!” — Steve Albert

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Castillo crumpled against the ropes after Corrales’ onslaught.
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MULVANEY: Perfect stoppage, absolutely perfect stoppage.

WEEKS: After I stopped the fight, some of the Castillo people were unhappy that I may have stopped it too soon. But when they showed the replay, it was clear that he was out of it and could have been seriously hurt.

MULVANEY: I know Corrales had been hurt too, but there is a difference. Once you are on the ropes and your hands have dropped and your eyes roll around, you have to stop the fight. I know [Castillo] complained about it afterward, as you’d expect him to and quite right so, but he was out. He was done and all that was going to happen was he was going to take more punches.

GOOSSEN: I almost fear for how that fight would have turned out had Tony Weeks not been the third man in the ring that night. I say it to whomever I can, thank God for Tony Weeks in that fight because it made it the classic it turned out to be.

DUBOEF: I don’t remember any of the rhetoric or nonsense that would occur post-fight, either from a bad decision or poor stoppage occurring at the end of that fight. I remember that it was just one of those surreal nights where something special occurred in the ring with a result that had a twist for you. Everybody there wasn’t muddying the waters. There was no blame game. 

“Corrales with a remarkable, dramatic turnaround to win this fight! Unbelievable!” — Steve Albert

BERNSTEIN: I’ll never forget being in that arena and people were stunned. That round and that moment kind of typifies what boxing is all about. With this wonderful artistry and this excitement, there is always the unexpected.

MULVANEY: The way that Diego just calmly walks away at first before Joe and his team just come crashing into the ring, I had not experienced anything quite like that at ringside.

DUBOEF: It was just a surreal moment. You had certain emotions tied to a result that was inevitable and it ended up not happening. It’s like you are watching a movie and thought it was the conclusion, and then there’s a twist at the end and something happens. That’s how this played out.

PELULLO: There was so much going on, I don’t know what to tell you. When I jumped out of my seat [and ran into the ring], I have never witnessed anything before or after like that. I never did. I just couldn’t believe it, I just couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe what I saw.

MULVANEY: It’s that weird feeling of euphoric detachment. Oh my god, is it actually possible that I just witnessed this? My eyes must have been bugging. I just had this kind of recollection at looking around and it was like one of those cartoons where the eyes come out on stalks. I was so struggling to comprehend what I just had seen. I can’t even imagine what my pulse rate must have been doing. You feel like you have shared in that whole experience even though you are just an observer. It’s a euphoric detachment and a sense of disbelief almost.

DUBOEF: It’s not about how great the fight was, it was that emotion. Your anticipation is Castillo winning the fight before it falls out from underneath you. All of a sudden the floor opens up and it’s like, ‘Oh, we tricked you!’ You can see it, you can feel it, you know what it is and all of a sudden the trap door opens up.

MULVANEY: What I remember is Ben Schulberg, Budd’s young son, got so excited that he sprang out of his chair and ran toward the ring. I don’t know what he thought he was going to do. And he did it with such force, 88-year-old Budd gets bumped into me. I look at him and he’s stunned. He looks back at me and I’m stunned. Everybody is completely shocked at what we just saw.

“That might be the most extraordinary comeback within a round to win a fight that has ever happened.” — Al Bernstein 

DUBOEF: I think this superhuman nature of a truly great prizefighter is how they go through adversity and dig deep and come back and perform like that.

GOOSSEN: [Corrales] gave a lot of people a lot of joy and happiness, a lot of hope. Just the sheer determination and bravery of both of those guys that night was really something to set your sights towards if you are a competitor in any field of work.

PELULLO: After the fight, we go to the locker room and I’m with [Corrales] and his eye is all f—ed up. I give him a big hug and he says, ‘Thank you.’ I said, ‘Thank you? Are you kidding me? This is the greatest thing I ever saw in my life.’ He said, ‘Thank you for putting Freitas in with me, I know you didn’t want to do it.’ I told him he knows I didn’t want to. He asked what’s next after this and I said, ‘You need about a f—ing year off after this.’ He started laughing and said, ‘You gotta be out of your f—ing mind.’

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DUBOEF: There was no devastation [because of the loss]. I think there is a difference. If we don’t keep score and don’t say we are in the ‘I’m better than you’ business, but we are in the ‘what opportunity as a result of this fight happened’ business and we saw that differently, that performance made both of these guys massive amounts of money as a result of it going forward. There was no disappointment.

PELULLO: The round before, [duBoef and Arum] were all high-fiving each other thinking that they won the fight!

DUBOEF: It wasn’t disappointment or anything where you were upset that your guy had lost or won, you were just in awe. It was almost like a special moment in sports and those great moments that happen. If it’s Tiger [Woods] chipping it in at Augusta and you are sitting there watching it. I happened to be lucky enough to be walking out of Dodgers Stadium when Kirk Gibson hits the home run [in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series]. Those are just memorable moments you were lucky you were at. That’s what I chalk it up for. You were in a place at a very special time at a very special moment. That’s what makes sports and live events so compelling. That surprise is what left me flabbergasted.

MULVANEY: You had two guys who were born without a reverse gear. Diego Corrales’ great weakness as a boxer was his refusal ever to be a boxer and his insistence to be a fighter. That caused him to lose more fights than he should have done. The guy was 6-foot tall and 130 pounds. He should have been jabbing the whole time, but he never did. And Castillo knew nothing else but to come forward and be a pressure fighter.

GOOSSEN: Two willing warriors and they had old school mentalities. They meant it when they said they would rather die than lose a fight.

“Diego Corrales said he would go through hell before losing this fight. He may have!” — Steve Albert

GOOSSEN: Castillo with that great body attack left Diego in bad shape that night in the hospital, let me tell you. But he wasn’t in as bad a shape as Castillo was because we won. Diego had a lot of blood in his urine that night and probably the most I have seen in a fight. Diego said [Castillo] was the hardest puncher he has ever faced.

PELULLO: It ruined them both after that. They were never the same. They were never the same after that. It’s like [Muhammad] Ali-[Joe] Frazier I. They were ruined after that, they were both ruined. Even though Ali went on to beat [George] Foreman, they were not the same fighters.

DUBOEF: People talk about how great the fight is but when you are intimately involved in the fight and know the fighters, there is a brutality to it that prohibits me from re-watching it. It’s because of the vicious behavior, it’s because of the violence and these kids just putting it all out there. You just personalize it. I’ve never watched the first Corrales-Castillo fight again and I’ve never re-watched the first [Marco Antonio] Barrera-[Erik] Morales fight and I’ve never re-watched the first [Miguel] Cotto-[Antonio] Margarito fight.

IV: The enduring legacy

PELULLO: I’ll never promote another fight like that. I’ll never get that fortunate, I don’t believe. I’ll never have another opportunity to have two guys in the ring at the same time and on that evening, they were the best at what they were going to do. At that time, they were the best of what they were. That was 15 years ago, I promoted some nice fights since then but nothing like that. And then to be ringside and get to be part of it and watch it go back and forth, I don’t think that will happen again. I don’t think that will happen.

MULVANEY: Certainly, in the aftermath, people were walking around the press room as if they had been hit by a truck or something. We were all just like staring at each other in disbelief.

GOOSSEN: I remember the great Bert Sugar, as we were leaving the arena and heading to the press conference after the fight. Somebody asked him if this is one of the greatest fights he has ever seen. He said, ‘No. It’s the greatest fight I’ve ever seen.’ It wasn’t one of the greatest fights for Bert Sugar, who had seen it all, of course, as a boxing historian who saw all the great fights. He said it’s the greatest. That’s pretty lofty praise and it had everything you could ask for in a fight.

PELULLO: They were already saying it was the fight of the year and the fight of the decade. They were already saying that after the fight in the press room. Everybody couldn’t believe what they have witnessed. It was really something.

MULVANEY: People were already calling it the fight of the year and decade really, really, really fast.

DUBOEF: I remember I was going to a wedding or engagement party after the fight, some sort of celebration. I actually remember the suit I was wearing. Then I got to the house and I was speechless. They asked what happened to the fight and it was one of those things where it just left you in awe.

BERNSTEIN: The greatest fight I announced here at Showtime and, in fact, the best fight I ever announced in my career.

MULVANEY: I remember a quote from Gary Shaw when he stood up in the press room and said, ‘Ladies and gentleman, what you just saw is as great as a fight as you will ever see for as long as you shall live.’ 

GOOSSEN: I’ve seen quite a few great classics like [Aaron] Pryor-[Alexis] Arguello, [Salvador] Sanchez-Azumah Nelson. But this one seems to surpass a lot of those because of the real tug of war, the knockdowns, the Hollywood ending, the surprise ending, it had everything. It was very dramatic.

PELULLO: I don’t remember much about that night after the fight. I was on cloud nine. I ran into Corrales at one of the bars. He was a good drinker, too. I just remember being so excited and replaying in my mind what I just saw. I was up all night. I didn’t go to bed until like 7 a.m. in the morning. We couldn’t believe what we just saw!

DUBOEF: These guys both put on a performance that elevated both of them with massive significance. The next day our phone was ringing off the hook from [casino mogul] Steve Wynn, who said, ‘I heard you guys did a fight at Mandalay Bay. I need to see a tape of this fight. I got to see this fight.’ He got obsessed. It cuts through the general person and everyday sports fan. He was like, ‘We got to do this again.’ It elevated both of them. It wasn’t a loss, it was an opportunity they created for one another as a result of their performances.

WEEKS: As a referee, we are so focused in what is happening in the ring. We don’t have a chance to understand what is going on in terms of the overall fight itself. It really hit me when I went home and I’m getting all these phone calls for interviews or people congratulating me. When I had a chance to really sit down and see it, it was like, ‘Wow. What a fight.’ It could have went the other way where I could have stopped the fight on the first or second knockdown and we wouldn’t have had this dramatic comeback.

GOOSSEN: Enough can not be said about the real reason this fight was great and that was Tony Weeks. Bar none, believe me. I love referees, they are great guys and have a tough and dangerous job.

WEEKS: The great [Hall of Fame referee] Richard Steele told me that some referees aren’t blessed to have a signature fight and I was truly blessed to have a signature fight. This fight absolutely [made me]. Absolutely. Thanks to those two combatants, it put me up there. Fifteen years later and I still think about this fight every day. What an honor to be part of history. The two fighters, they put in all the work. I thank God that I was able to come through with the right performance.

GOOSSEN: I don’t watch a lot of my fights that I participate in, hardly ever. Once I’ve seen them, I know what I saw and I can pretty much recall mostly everything. It’s the one fight when it comes on Showtime, I probably watch over and over again. It’s so compelling that you are going to watch it.

PELULLO: I watch the clips all the time and I just can’t believe what these guys did to each other.

MULVANEY: Once Corrales and Castillo had started fighting that fight, they were locked in and there was no way out. Those two human beings were in a closer physical proximity to each other for those 10 rounds than any two people should be outside of the marital bed. They were practically velcro to each other. They barely gave each other any distance. They had decided that was the way they were going to fight that battle and once they each made that decision, they made a pact with each other that this is how it was going to be. Once they made that decision, it was never going to be any other kind of night.

GOOSSEN: Diego and I were very close. He spent a lot of time at my house and was a very different person than you might imagine outside the gym. He loved to talk to my daughters and my wife. When the guys were watching ESPN sports, he’s in there talking about cooking with the girls. He had a lot of different interests like scuba diving and outdoor activities. He was very soft spoken, very fun loving and very joyful. He was not some mean and nasty guy at all. In the ring, he turned on a different switch. My wife said, ‘Wow, he’s very normal for a fighter.’ I always thought that was funny.

PELULLO: I think they had a very good relationship because leading up to the fight I could see how close they were together at the press conference and at the weigh-in. Their chemistry was very good with each other.

GOOSSEN: It was just a really great relationship and I miss him really dearly. It’s really hard to believe how young he was and how many years have passed so far. They are still talking about it today and I wish he were here to enjoy it. [Corrales died in a motorcycle accident in 2007.] He would probably say it meant everything to him. I think that erased anything that might have happened in his past that was frowned upon, whether it be his [2001] loss to Mayweather where it was highly uncompetitive in a fight many thought would be highly competitive, if not a knockout victory for Diego. I think it erased that and erased some of the personal problems he had outside the ring to a degree.

*Italic quotes taken from Showtime original broadcast. Bernstein’s comments taken from a Showtime 30th anniversary reflections interview in 2016. 





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